Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"A Century of Silent Service", from U.S. Submarine Force Museum in CT

The U.S. Submarine Force Museum in Groton, CN (link) sells a documentary DVD “A Century of Silent Service” with subtitle “100 Years of Submarine History”, produced, written, narrated, and I presume directed by Skip Church, from Sonalysts, Inc. (link).

The film is in two parts, for a total run time of about 87 minutes. At the museum, about 50 minutes is shown free to visitors. The complete DVD costs about $35, rather expensive, but typical for non-profit private foundations.

Each “part” begins with an introduction by Jimmy Carter, and now a submarine is being built in his name.
Submarines were invented in the 19th Century and used during the Civil War, but began to advance in the early 20th Century with the diesel engine.  During WWII, they were very effective in the Pacific, until a media reporter had “loose lips” and published important secrets.

The most important innovation after WWII was Rickover’s nuclear powered boat, which allowed submarines to live underwater in stealth for months, and which would contribute heavily to breaking the bank (including financially) of the Soviet Union, leading to its collapse in 1991 (after the fall of the Berlin Wall).  The use of submarines to fire cruise missiles at distant land targets, while always possible with nuclear warheads, became critical during the first Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Technically, the video looks sharp on HD, but many of the historical scenes are in black and white.
The film, of course, makes much of the Nautilus (which in in port for tours in Groton), launched in 1954, as having made living conditions much better for submariners. To the tourist, the cramped quarters (often mentioned during the political debate over gays in the military and “don’t ask don’t tell”) are quite shocking.

The film also documents many submarine tragedies, where all men were lost, and at least one where most were rescued with a diving bell.  The film, made in 2001, does not discuss the service of women, for which the most modern submarines can make accommodation.


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